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GMS Z Med Ausbild. 2010;27(3):Doc45. doi: 10.3205/zma000682. Epub 2010 May 17.

Criteria for the successful completion of medical dissertations - A multicenter study.

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Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Hamburg, Deutschland.



In order to acquire the academic title "doctor" in Germany, it is essential to complete a dissertation. A high number of publications at German universities are based on medical dissertations. The reasons why some dissertations are successfully accomplished and why some are not completed - despite far-reaching consequences - have been barely investigated to date.


467 students in the ninth semester at five German universities participated in this study in 2003. A questionnaire (return rate 93.5%) was used, asking details about the circumstances of a current or completed dissertation (Group A), an abandoned doctoral project (Group B), or one which was never started (Group C).


Students in Group A referred significantly more often to their supervisor as being essential for choosing the topic of their dissertation project. Furthermore, students in Group A worked together with other students in self-organized support groups to debate methodological questions. They also discussed their project more frequently with a statistician. Students in Group C gave "interference with undergraduate studies" and "no time" as the most common reasons for not starting a dissertation.


As the supervisor seems to play an important role for the successful completion of dissertations, universities should think about professional programs that would prepare supervisors for this educational task. Courses for doctoral candidates in scientific research methodology could also be a helpful tool toward successfully accomplishing a doctoral thesis or scientific projects in general.


medical dissertation; medical education; medical research; scientific work

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